COVID-19 has far-reaching implications for virtually all sectors of society. One of the greatest challenges was and is the measures relating to schools, in particular school closures. However, these measures also opened up unimagined opportunities. Digital teaching and learning is more important and in greater demand than ever before, in order to be able to ensure orderly school instruction despite the difficult situation. One of the most important questions that arises from this is the influence of school measures (such as school closures and alternate teaching) on the cognitive development of primary school children. This is because important cognitive developmental processes, such as toward concrete-operational (seven- to eleven-year-olds), occur during this period. Due to the differences that exist between families, e.g., socioeconomically, culturally or in terms of parental educational background, it is to be feared that during school closures, for example, educationally disadvantageous factors will have a greater impact. This is because with respect to primary school children, so-called shear effects are well documented (Huber, Günther, Schneider, Helm, Schwander, Schneider & Pruitt 2022, 8), which are possibly intensified due to the COVID-19 measures.
The aim of this research project is to empirically test whether and to what extent the COVID-19 measures had or have an impact on the cognitive development of primary school children with respect to shear effects. These shear effects relate to socio-cultural and -economic circumstances (such as access to digital devices via, for example, youth centers, the provision of such devices in families, own workplace, fixed daily structures, parental support, learning with others, etc.). To this end, schoolchildren in the third grade from 18 schools in four Austrian provinces (Burgenland, Vienna, Lower Austria and Styria) were and are surveyed using a psychometric survey (KFT 1-3). It is particularly important to note that the first measurement point of this study was in September 2020, shortly before the recent closure of elementary schools. The socio-cultural and socio-economic background is determined by means of a survey of the legal guardians, the individual stress and care situation of the school children as well as the type and extent of the use of digital media in the classroom by means of a survey of the respective teachers and legal guardians.